We all know the story – we wildly dig into our tackle box yet again, sure there must be some hidden gem that will bring the day back from complete failure. We’ve tried hard plastic, soft plastic, wood and metal; but there has to be something that they’ll bite on, right? Well, who knows? The next day, here we are looking back through the box thinking “what the hell do I have all these things for! All I ever use is that thing anyway!”
When is it time to change lures? Should we have on hand a solid selection of 30 odd to choose from; or should we focus on a small assortment of tried and tested workhorses – making sure to get placement and retrieve correct before anything else?
I used to think I knew that you had to have a bit of everything – that’s what the information said. Then I started looking at the productivity of the lures I had; as well as what was behind the information I’d been given. Now I’m inclined to wonder.
I’ve fished with all sorts. My dad, on one hand, is happy to cast the same lure until it rots off the end of his line and I have to force him to try something else when things just aren’t working. Other blokes I’ve fished with are lucky to complete their first retrieve before they’re glancing at boxes of shiny things again. I tend to sit in the middle somewhere, but these days that’s closer to the former example. I still buy more than I need, but I guess that’s what lures are best at catching.
I like soft plastic jerk shads. I like the look of them, I like their action, and I have a lot of success with them. I use different sizes and colours for sure; and different weights of jig heads to fish them throughout the water column. I know that other soft plastic patterns work too – but I don’t like fishing them as much. So why should I? Perhaps the odd paddle tail just to get a nice tail-waggling retrieve at slow speeds – but other than that I’m pretty sorted. I like walk-the-dog type surface lures. I am really good at walking the dog. So why should I tie on a popper that I don’t have any confidence in? I honestly don’t think I’d be much better off.
The great thing about new lures, techniques and so on is the chance to throw something out there that the fish haven’t seen before. That’s all well and good – but I have to ask: is the new stuff actually catching any more than anything else? Or does it seem so because that’s what everyone is using or talking about? In the same vein – having a selection of consistent producers is great, and leads us to think we should be testing out other stuff. But, if the other stuff works and we aren’t getting any further insights into the art… then what’s the point? We all know that most of the gear out there catches fish – so where to from there?
For most practical, fish-catching applications, I’m starting to feel sure that keeping a smaller selection of lures that I have a high degree of confidence in and that I’m really good at using is a more sensible option than having stacks of everything with no idea where to start. I know this is a risky thing to say, and I can’t help thinking about all those days spent on Burrendong Dam looking for yellowbelly, when asking the bloke at the shop what colour had been working would bring us from fishless failure to cheering success. And then having to ask him again the next day because they’d gotten over yellow and become enamoured with purple.
The toughest question to answer; the unanswerable one; is whether or not any fish caught made the decision to bite due to lure selection or due to being active. Even completely inactive fish will bite a lure if you dangle it in front of their nose for long enough. If you want to catch fish there is only one way to do it: find the active ones. Then work out what they’re interested in. You can’t tell whether a lure works unless you fish it for a year anyway.